Comparing the top five 2020 RBs to recent college stars
For the next two weeks, Rivals.com is launching a series comparing the top five players at each position with current college players or those who were selected in the 2019 NFL Draft to better give fans an idea of who these players are and what to expect from the next round of superstars in the game.
Today, we move to running backs.
1. ZACHARY EVANS
Comparison: Travis Etienne
Overview: Etienne was not highly-ranked and his dominance in Clemson’s backfield has been somewhat of a surprise compared to Evans, who’s the No. 1 running back in the class and who could be the best back from Texas since Adrian Peterson. Still, the two have similar running styles even though Evans is slightly taller. Etienne has been incredible for the Tigers rushing for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns last season and he’s emerged as arguably the top running back in college football. Evans has a lot of hype around him so living up to those expectations won’t be easy but he’s a dominant back who can break big runs at any time.
Farrell’s take: Evans has the burst Etienne has and he can be a threat out of the backfield as well. He’s a smaller version of Peterson coming out, but Etienne is a good comparison because they are both slashers who can surprise you with power and have a nose for the end zone.
2. KENDALL MILTON
Comparison: Cam Akers
Overview: Every time we see Milton he’s getting bigger and thicker and while he’s about two inches taller than Akers they have similar playing styles. Milton is a fast, aggressive runner who has great vision and can bounce it outside and Akers was similar in high school, making moves, beating defenders and breaking big runs. The thought was that Milton could be a Leonard Fournette or Derrius Guice-type back and that’s still possible but Fournette struggled to catch the ball out of the backfield in high school and Milton doesn’t have that problem. Akers’ career has not boomed as expected at Florida State yet and he’s a couple inches shorter than Milton, but their playing styles are similar.
Farrell’s take: Akers played quarterback in high school but he had a very aggressive and powerful running style the same as Milton. Milton is a little taller and more upright but runs with the same anger and defiance. Fournette is probably a better comparison, but if we’re looking for someone in college or in the draft, Akers is a nice comparison.
3. DEMARKCUS BOWMAN
Comparison: J.K. Dobbins
Overview: Bowman has some incredible junior season film where he breaks big runs, outruns defenders, is tough to tackle in a phone booth and he has the ability to come out of the backfield and be a threat in the passing game. That is exactly what Dobbins did in high school, why Ohio State wanted him so badly and why he’s been such an asset in the Buckeyes’ offensive attack. Last season, Dobbins had 1,053 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns splitting carries with Mike Weber and he also caught 26 passes and had two receiving scores. Bowman could add some weight over the next couple years to catch up to Dobbins, but he can be used in Clemson’s offense just like Dobbins is used in Columbus.
Farrell’s take: Dobbins was injured in high school and probably would have been ranked higher had he been healthy. The two have similar skills. Bowman runs with natural leverage, he reaches top speed quickly and he’s hard to tackle. But with all of that, he is also a guy who can take an inside hand-off or reverse to the house and work out of the backfield in the passing game.
4. MARSHAWN LLOYD
Comparison: Eno Benjamin
Overview: One of the biggest surprises in college football last season was Benjamin, who had a breakout season with 1,642 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns along with 35 catches and two scores. He was a dream addition to college fantasy football rosters as well. Lloyd could have a similar college career to Benjamin since they’re both about the same size even if Lloyd is a little more physically developed. The five-star can run between the tackles, stop on a dime to make defenders miss or even line up in the slot and make things happen that way. Benjamin wasn’t as big of a name coming out of high school but he has produced at Arizona State. Lloyd could be the same player in the coming years.
Farrell’s take: Lloyd might be a little quicker and shiftier but he will need to step it up to be as powerful and hard a runner as Benjamin, who is so hard to tackle. Both have great vision, get better as the game wears on and are guys you don’t want to tackle. Wherever Lloyd ends up, he could be a star and it will be interesting to see if he chooses a place where he can be the man like Benjamin did or if he goes to a program with numerous elite recruits.
5. JASE MCCLELLAN
Comparison: Josh Jacobs
Overview: It is really heady company to be compared to the first running back drafted, but McClellan has a lot of traits that Jacobs possessed and made him so successful coming out of Alabama. The Oklahoma commit might not be as physical, but he’s definitely a weapon in the run and pass game and that could allow him to have a huge career in Norman. He runs the ball well, but he can also catch passes, make people miss and be physical. Oklahoma is going to move the ball and McClellan should be able to put up big numbers in that offense because he can grind for extra yards and carry would-be tacklers with him.
Farrell’s take: Jacobs was the first running back taken in the draft because of his speed and power running style and he has mileage left on the wheels after sharing carries. McClellan goes into a situation where he will be running from a spread more often but Oklahoma backs have been very physical in recent years and shifty and McClellan has those traits. I like the spread offense for McClellan, but he could be successful in pro and power sets as well.